Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Last Friday at midday I was in Bath Abbey, with a friend, reading plaques to the long dead. On the other side of the world, mayhem. The difference between tragedies of the eighteenth century and tragedy now is knowledge and scale. Those plaques in the abbey commemorate brave sad lives - a woman who lost a husband to the Indian mutiny, and then three infants during or after the voyage back to England. There are early deaths of young women doomed to act as companions to ailing aunts, and of military men and slavers who served in distant lands and came home to die in Bath in the bosom of their families. Everything is slow and sad and steady and one at a time. But Japan - and Christ Church, and Libya and Bahrain. We know so much, we live so close together. We switch on our computers and it's all there. Catastrophe unfolds before our eyes. It's been said many many times, but it's so easy to forget the individual. That's what we must do in fiction - draw the individual from the multitude, so that we never lose sight of the agony.
Posted by Katharine McMahon at 20:09